It was that time of the quarter again – time for book reports. Some students love reading and writing about the book they’ve been assigned, but over the years I’ve found that most pre-teens don’t dream about writing book reports…well, unless it’s a bad dream?
Either way, I was set on finding a more inclusive option for students who don’t enjoy this required assignment. Being a teacher, I’ve learned through the Vark Model that students can actively learn in 4 ways – visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. I wanted to find a way to try and combine all of these learning styles in order to cater to all of my students. After researching and asking around, a colleague introduced me to an online video maker called mysimpleshow. So, I made a few videos using different templates to try out the tool. I thought it would be great for my students to use to help them with their book reports, and the perfect way to combine active learning styles.
When I told my students that I found a new way to incorporate media and fun into book reports without assigning additional homework, they were ecstatic. Writing the book report became easier for them because they had something to look forward to afterwards – creating their own animated video during the school day and showing it to the class! It was really a win-win situation. They were excited, and using this interactive media tool helps meet school board requirements. The students still improve upon their reading comprehension and writing skills because the book report is used more than once.
The 4 step process was simple to follow. Once I decided to use mysimpleshow, I required a formal version and an outlined version of the book report, the latter being used to help transfer their text to the mysimpleshow template. In the Draft step, I used the “Summarize literature and movies” template and showed my students the example video for reference. The guidelines within the template really helped the kids structure their reports in the Write step. Having word limits is helpful too, because they were forced to write a great report with much less content than a normal book report, and a bit more content than the outlines they prepared. It was thrilling for me to watch them think critically and creatively, and have a blast doing it!
The Visualize step was probably the most fun for the students. I also had the opportunity to see who the more creative students were, and who I can help develop creatively. mysimpleshow’s Explainer Engine is a really intelligent part of the tool overall. It automatically suggested illustrations based on the text entered in the Write step. The illustration style was favored by the students, and they loved being able to also choose other illustrations from the database, upload their own, and resize and combine images. I had a few students who used the text feature to enhance their visuals as well!
In the Finalize step, most students wanted to use the automated voices, James and Paul. This was great because both voices translated the English text nearly perfectly and made finalizing the video quick and easy. Some students decided to challenge themselves and record their own voiceovers – and let me tell you, hearing 11 year olds try to do this is quite entertaining! The self-recorded voiceovers actually didn’t turn out so bad, and we were able to use them for in-class presentation purposes. After rendering their videos, I had them download the video and guided them on how to publish the video to YouTube, so they can show their family and friends.
Overall, using mysimpleshow was a terrific learning experience for the students and myself alike. The students learned how to storytell in a simple way, and how to use images to create cognitive associations with their own words. I plan on using mysimpleshow in the future for book reports, integration into my lesson plans and powerpoints, and other assignments as well. Teachers – try it with your students and see how they like it!
Feature image courtesy of Flickr, FaruSantos.